Willie Miller says his disappointment after Scotland’s Mexico ‘86 exit was worse than Spain ‘82.
In a must-win final group game against Russia in the earlier tournament, Miller and centre-back partner Alan Hansen collided to allow the Russians to pull 2-1 ahead.
The Scots had to fight their way back to 2-2, but were left with no time to find a winner – sending the Soviets through and the Dark Blues home on goal difference.
Four years later, it again came down to the final group game to decide if Scotland could finally reach the World Cup second round. However, they drew with 10-man Uruguay and were out.
Aberdeen’s Cup Winners’ Cup-winning captain Miller, pictured, said: “It was a sorer one to take than ’82.
“Our performances were better in Mexico, everything fell into place, it was there for the taking and we should’ve been good enough to take the opportunity.
“I was a bit more mature, I’d a few more international caps under my belt, was at my peak.
“I’d won just about everything there was to win with my club and I was looking to achieve the highlight of my career of qualifying for the next stages.
“Not to qualify was hugely disappointing.
“I was gutted in Spain, but I’d felt there was more to come.
“In Mexico, playing at my peak, with my team-mates, we should’ve qualified, but we didn’t.”
By the tournament, Alex Ferguson was helming the team after Jock Stein’s shock death in Cardiff after Scotland beat Wales to qualify.
Scotland’s earlier performances in Mexico were nothing to be ashamed about.
used to the altitude after training in the United States beforehand, they’d lost 1-0 to Denmark – who went on to top the group – and 2-1 to second-placed West Germany.
The Uruguayans only had one more point than the Scots before their meeting at Estadio Neza, so a win, and two points, would have sent the national team through in third.
Things turned brilliantly in their favour when defender Jose Batista was dismissed after just a minute of play, but the South Americans dug in and Alex Ferguson’s men couldn’t break the deadlock.
Miller said: “We dominated the game after they went down to 10 men and they basically shut up shop.
“They were well drilled and well organised.
“My part to play was making sure we didn’t get sucker-punched.
“It was probably our worst performance of the three games, because it was there to be taken and we had enough possession to win the game.
“Everything lined up for us, but we couldn’t be creative enough.
“We had the one opportunity, through Stevie Nicol, and it was a glaring opportunity. He couldn’t put it away.
“You can make up all the excuses you want, but at the end of the day we weren’t good enough and couldn’t qualify and that was really difficult to take.
“Having played the way we’d played in the first two games and being presented with an opportunity, we fell flat on our face.”